NerdWallet’s How Do You Do Money? series asks people from various walks of life to share their attitudes and approach to personal finance, with the goal of bringing transparency to discussions surrounding money. In this installment we speak with Megan Reynolds, a 31-year-old freelancer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. This is how she does money.
What do you do for your main source of income? How did you get into that line of work?
Right now, I’m freelancing and I work in ad-traffic production for a very small creative agency.
About how much do you earn before taxes per year?
Do you feel secure with that amount? If not, how much would make you feel secure?
That amount feels fine, but living in New York means that people constantly, always want more. I’d love to make more, but I don’t know what that number is because once you get more, you just keep wanting. I’m sure if I was making, say, $90,000 I’d feel a little better.
That’s a good point, there’s been quite a bit of discussion surrounding the idea that after you earn a certain amount, earning more doesn’t make you happier. Do you have any debt? If so, what for and how much?
I have lots of debt! It’s fun to have debt, sort of. I have about $20K in student loans and around $1-2K in credit card debt.
Do you think incurring that debt was worth it?
My undergraduate degree was worth it, I guess, inasmuch as a creative writing degree can be worth anything. The credit card debit feels manageable, and isn’t really that bad, so I’m not terribly concerned about it.
Seems like you’ve got a great attitude about managing your debt. Do you have any savings goals? If so, what are they?
I would love very much to move out of my apartment and into my own place, so if I can sock away enough for that in the next few months, fantastic.
How was the topic of money approached in the home(s) you grew up in?
I really do believe that the amount of money you do or don’t have affects how you approach it. If there’s not a lot of it, I think it’s wise to address that. If there is a lot of it, that’s an entirely different story. For me, we were always either comfortable-ish or just getting by, and I was aware of it either way. Growing up, my family was really small, just my father, my sister and myself, and so it was kind of “keep everyone abreast of the situation.”
What factors do you think influenced that approach?
I mean, the only factor that I think influences the way things are approached is whether or not you have the money or not. As a kid, the money really wasn’t there, so that’s why it was addressed frankly and honestly. I’ve never sat down and asked my father why he was the way he was about money with us, but I’d like to assume it’s because for our entire lives he treated us as close to equals as was possible. We never knew how much money we actually had, but if there was something we wanted and couldn’t have, the answer was always simple.
How do you think that affected your attitude toward money and your personal finances?
I think that it’s perfectly fine and wonderful and necessary to talk openly and frankly about money, because it’s a problem that every single person has. I would love to know what everyone makes, because that kind of information informs your own decisions and salary negotiations and it’s just useful information about the world around you.
Has your approach toward personal finance changed from the time you left home? How so?
I have had to figure out the hard way how best to budget, but I now don’t really budget, honestly. I just have a clear idea of how much money is in my checking account at all times. That number keeps me going, and while this method may be a little manic, it works for me.
Are there any resources or tools that you’ve used to learn about and manage your money?
I used to use Mint for a while but stopped because something about the extra step of checking both my bank account balance and then an app irritated me.
What is the best monetary investment you’ve made and why?
I’m looking around at all of my stuff now, and am realizing that none of it was really a good investment because it’s mostly books and some clothing and a pile of shoes. I spent $100 to adopt my cat, and she has been a pretty sound financial investment.
What monetary investment do you regret the most and why?
If we’re going to consider an investment as literally any time you spend money on something, then I would say the worst investment by far is the amount of clothing that I’ve bought that I didn’t actually need.
What does financial stability mean to you?
To be able to pay my bills on time. To not have to know how much is in my bank account. To not feel immediate panic when an automatic bill-pay clears my account.
What financial accomplishment are you the most proud of?
When I got laid off in October I managed to make my severance + my savings + my tax refund stretch for a while, without feeling much of a pinch in my everyday life.
Are there any questions you’ve ever wanted to ask a financial advisor?
How long does it take to restore your credit from abysmal to decent?
It can take 3-5 years to restore your credit. This assumes that there are NO additional late notices or failures that hit your credit report.
Do you, or someone you know, want to be interviewed? Email Heather.
Illustration by Brian Yee